Remote Chhattisgarh village's only school to get a roof over its head

Updated: Dec 04, 2016, 15:58 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon |

Chhattisgarh village Sardhi’s first school to finally get proper building after two years

Around 22 students, between six and 10 years of age, attend class at the Gair Awasi Prathamik Shala
Around 22 students, between six and 10 years of age, attend class at the Gair Awasi Prathamik Shala

Two years ago, when an open air school was first set up in the remote tribal village of Sardhi in the Korba district of Chhattisgarh, it was received with a lot of resistance and apprehension. Most families in the village refused to send their children to study, recalls a teacher. Today, with 22 students, this school, which is single-handedly helping change the fortunes of this non-literate tribal belt, is fast evolving. Once functioning under a tree, the Gair Awasi Prathamik Shala – meaning ‘no building primary school’ – could soon get its own building to conduct classes.

A team from the tribal welfare department recently visited the village and conducted a survey for the construction of a proper primary school. “We are hopeful it will happen soon but everything will depend on when the tender is floated and when the state allocates a budget,” said Muniv Shukla, a social worker attached with the Gram Mitra.

Not an easy task
The village of Sardhi is inhabited by the Pahadi Korvas, who belong to the particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG) and mostly work as daily wage labourers. The village, surrounded by forests and hills on all sides, has a population of barely 100. “With no pakka roads, Sardhi is not even connected by any mode of transport. The closest bus service is five kilometres away. The village is also separated by a wide river, which overflows in the monsoon, making it dangerous to traverse,” said Shukla of this inaccessible village. In 2014, following sustained efforts by the NGO CRY – Child Rights and You – the first school in the area came into existence. “When the NGO started the school, the tribals refused to send their children because they thought they would be better off working. I used to visit their homes five times a week to persuade them,” said Alma Baig, a teacher.

Presently, the school only runs a primary section and students need to go to another village for middle school. “Though we now have 22 students [four boys and 18 girls], I still make it a point to visit the families and ensure that the parents send their kids to school,” said Baig, who is a graduate and lives in the neighbouring village of Baghdari Dard, which is two kilometers from Sardhi. Baig says that she finds this job very fulfilling.

Tackling ‘zero’ literacy
The tribals have their own language and are cut off from the rest of the world. “Most of the children come to school because of the mid-day meal provided by the tribal welfare department. Also, books and uniforms are distributed for free,” Shukla said.

When contacted, Dinesh Kakkoth, associate general manager (West) CRY, said after the NGO convinced the villagers about the need for a school, the community submitted an application to the education department and the collector, demanding a primary school. “Classes first began under a tree in 2014. This year, the community built a temporary place. We have discussed with the forest department the issue of providing a regular school and an anganwadi for the children, and they have agreed in principle,” said Kakkoth.

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